Film Review: Skinamarink
SKINAMARINK has become a phenomenon since it first began screening. For many audiences, it is like nothing they have seen before. It is such a supremely experimental film that it is difficult to critique. It relies heavily on unconventional shots and editing that resist logic and continuity and focuses more on creating a threatening atmosphere. Writer-director Kyle Edward Ball clearly had a specific vision of horror for his first feature. The film has terrified many people, so it should be commended.
As far as SKINAMARINK’s plot goes, it is not immediately obvious. Grainy footage from 1995 records a presence haunting a house intent on targeting preschool-aged Kevin and Kaylee, who wake up to their parents missing. The actual house also seems to be possessed, as doors disappear and things seem to defy gravity.
The ambiguity in the story, while sometimes distracting, certainly worked to produce extended conversations after the film. A crowd filled the cinema lobby at the one-off screening in Sydney, spilling onto the street as audience members gathered in groups, needing to discuss what they had just watched immediately.
For those familiar with Analog Horror, a kind of extra subgenre to the Found Footage subgenre (yes, the rabbit hole is deep), and internet Alternate Reality Games, SKINAMARINK may not be as novel. The film takes from this style of horror media, but Kyle Edward Ball has made Youtube serials into a feature length movie. Fans of 2013’s WNUF HALLOWEEN SPECIAL and its particular brand of delivery will probably like SKINAMARINK for some of the same reasons, although it is far from a horror comedy. It is a bold move and does not always work, but perhaps it will set a precedent for the future of horror films. For horror fans, things might be about to get interesting.
As far as truly frightening scenes, SKINAMARINK has many. From household objects and kids’ toys becoming sinister to the unnerving destruction of the family unit, SKINAMARINK delivers existential fear, and some innovative jump scares that are truly rattling. The parts that send anxiety down the spine will stay in your mind well after seeing the film.
The debate surrounding SKINAMARINK then comes from whether these nightmarish elements redeem its excruciatingly slow pace. The film’s long abstract sequences will, for some, heighten their sense of dread; but will leave others restless in their seats. SKINAMARINK‘s concentration on “the build up” leaves a lot of its runtime somewhat tedious. The film is also heavy-handed with the startle response trick, especially in the beginning, which just felt cringy and caused a fair bit of laughter.
Perhaps SKINAMARINK’s downfalls come from viewing an uncinematic film in the cinema. It’s reasonable to call the movie uncinematic, not in a disparaging sense but because its Analog Horror style is more suited to being watched at home, by oneself, late at night. I would have been more viscerally affected if I were to watch SKINAMARINK in bed on a laptop alone in the dark.
I recommend an in-home experience that mimics the frights of a film pinned on the concept of the family home being unstoppably invaded by an unspeakable evil. Thankfully this is possible as SKINAMARINK will be available on SHUDDER from the 2nd of February.
“SKINAMARINK delivers existential fear, and some innovative jump scares that are truly rattling”